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Blame Avoidance and Policy Stability in Developing Democracies: The Politics of Public Security in Buenos Aires

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Democratization originally inspired hope that new regimes would privilege human rights. However, progressive reforms to the criminal code have been insufficient to stem dramatic increases in incarceration rates, and developing democracies have made little headway reforming their ineffective police forces. How can we explain the stability and enforcement of punitive criminal justice policies and the erosion of police reforms? We offer a novel theoretical explanation of these contrasting patterns through a comparison of these two policy areas in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Incentives to avoid blame for salient crimes discourage politicians from repealing punitive criminal justice policies and incentivize judges to enforce them. Responsibility for failed police reforms, however, is harder to assign, giving the police and their allies opportunities to undermine them.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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